The expression "going through Abo Pass" is a better description than "going over Abo Pass". It's really a gap rather than a pass. But only the railroad goes through the gap, while the modern road climbs a shallow shoulder above the gap to the south. The situation is made more confusing by the fact that going down the eastern approach of the road from the "summit" is only a 300 ft drop before the road starts climbing again. In an effort to locate a true summit on the road the profile continues east onto a slanted high plain to a high point in the town of Mountain Air. Even then the western approach descends only 450 feet. Abo Pass is not labeled on topographic maps. But the name appears on many Gazetteer and highway maps.

1.(4810ft,mile00) START-END WEST: Belen, jct: NM308 - Nm47
2.(5560ft,mile20) jct with US60 from Bernardo
3.(6050ft,mile22) intermediate summit
4.(5750ft,mile26) Abo Pass rest area
5.(6550ft,mile41) TOP: point of highest altitude at the west end of Mountainar
6.(6100ft,mile55) START-END EAST: Willard


From East.  Two arrow straight roads climb along a shallow alluvial plains from the Rio Grande to converge shortly before the real climb to the top. The profile shows the route from Belen which has all services. The road is designated as bicycle route and has a good shoulder. The town at the end of the other road, Bernardo, has a gas station at the most. Another straight line converges at the junction of the two roads, and that is the ragged fault line profile of the Manzano Mountains. Shortly before the junction the railroad crosses to the north side. The tracks enter a scenic gap, named Abo Canyon. The BNSF railroad is currently engaged in an effort to plan a second track through the rocky canyon. From the junction it's a short but definitely noticeable climb to the intermediate top. After a short drop the road crosses the rails again at a historical marker commemorating the Abo Pass Trail. The road begins to climb again very gradually between ravines. The old missionary and pueblo ruins of Abo are 3/4 miles off the main road. When reaching the highest point just short of the town of Mountain Air and turning back it becomes clear from the expansive view of the Manazano Range the different character of the land on this side of the mountains becomes clear. From the east the Manzanos gently rise to a forested dip slope. The entire route has a wide shoulder, although its condition deteriorates as you approach the town of Mountain View (Nov.07).

From West. It's hard to call this an approach. But if Abo Pass carries the destination pass, (even though it is really a gap), this has to be called an approach. Even the slope sensitve railroad does not need an elaborate constructions to make the simple 400 ft climb from Willard. The ride is reminiscent of a ride on the expansive mid western plains, in that the destination high point can be seen from anywhere in a 20 mile radius. The point of highest elevation is actually the water tower in the town of Mountain Air. It seems to never come any closer until you finally reach it. The shoulder on this side is rumble stripped, and the ridable part is narrower than on the other side, but still sufficient to stay out of traffic for the most part.




An out and back ride between Mountain Air and Belen over the pass twice measured 67 miles with 2300ft of climbing in 4:3 hours. The figures do not include 15 miles between the road junction described in the eastern approach to Belen in the west to east direction, because I accepted a car transport due to mechanical problems (7/11/20).



Native People. The Salinas Valley on the east side of the pass had been inhabited by natives for centuries before the Spanish brought back word of it. These pit house dwellers were assimilated by the Anasazi beginning in the 1100s, when they started building more in the style of multi story adobe apartment buidlings. One of these villages, Abo, is 3/4 mile off the pass road. The others Gran Quivira, Quarai and a few undeveloped sites located on private land, are even closer to the salt deposits in the Salinas Valley. By the 17th century the Salinas valley was inhabited by perhaps 10000 or more pueblo dwellers, who crossed the pass area, acting as traders and producers for the Rio Grande villages and the nomadic plains indians.

Spanish Colonialism. Then came the Spaniards, and in the words of the National Monument ranger I talked to - ruined everything. The majority of ruins at Abo were left by the Spaniards, but these buildings also had the shortest useful lifespan, becoming instant relics so to speak, and bearing testament to how fast they were ruined.

58 years before a brief, initial encounter between Spaniards and the pueblo Indians of nearby Gran Quivira Indians caused the conquistadors to go on a Golden Goose chase all the way to Kansas.. Now the Spaniards returned for a second time. The main attractions this time were salt in the Salinas Valley and agriculture, but these too, did never really turn out to be profitable. Still, wagon loads of salt and agricultural goods produced in the pueblos, crossed the pass to the Camino Real along the Rio Grande, and returned with missionary goods to the pueblos. In the end the reason for the Spnaish to to remain was because the pope said so. Franciscands introduced wheat bread, fruit trees as well as exploitation through forced tributes.

Another new item introduced by the Spaniards were "new diseases", at least new to the Indians. The second, "new and improved" church had been in service only for a couple of decades, when the final chapter began. A drought and souring relations with the apaches to the east, stopped catholic hymns reverberating in the new church. During the 1670s Salinas valley pueblo dwellers moved across the pass and were absorbed by other villages along the Rio Grande. The village of Abo was one of the last hold outs, already absorbing inhabitants of the lower Salinas Valley before they had to move again, this time all the way down the pass to the Rio Grande pueblos. This was 10 years before pueblos on the upper Rio Grande revolted against Spanish rule on a large scale and managed to expell them for a number of years.

Railroads. The pass was crossed by the Sante Fe railroad in 1908, when they completed the Belen cutoff. Today the railroad is attempting to convert the extremely busy single track line into double tracks.

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